Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Sep 17, 2014

BlackRock calls for U.S. stock market reforms

BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, has asked regulators to force exchanges to lower their access fees and require greater transparency of broker dealer-run trading venues known as "dark pools."

The New York-based company outlined a set of proposals aimed at boosting public confidence in the equity markets in a letter on its website to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated Sept. 12. It said that while the market is "not broken or in need of large scale change," improving current rules would help promote fairness, order and efficiency.

Questions about the safety and fairness of the mostly electronic markets have risen in recent years following a raft of high-profile trading glitches by numerous market participants, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of losses. Those concerns hit the mainstream in late March with author Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt," which claimed the markets were rigged in favor of high-speed traders.

This Reuters story, filed from New York, appeared on their Internet site at 6:01 p.m. EDT on Monday evening---and it's something I found in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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United Offers $100,000 Buyouts to Flight Attendants

United Airlines, the only major U.S. carrier to post a quarterly loss this year, is offering its flight attendants buyouts of as much as $100,000 as it seeks to rein in costs.

Employees who accept the early-exit plan will be eligible for lump-sum payments, said a spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy, who declined to disclose the formula needed to reach the maximum. United also is recalling 1,450 furloughed attendants, most of whom took voluntary leave one to two years ago, she said.

United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., is hoping for at least 2,100 takers from an attendants workforce of more than 23,000 after some senior employees sought the offer, McCarthy said. Attendants back from furlough also will help United bolster airports that were too thinly staffed, she said.

This Bloomberg story, filed from Atlanta, showed up on their website at 10 p.m. Denver time on Monday evening.  Reader Michael Cheverton, who sent me this story, had this to say about it---"Hi Ed, the staggering part about this article is that they say UAL shares are up 31% this year. For an industry that is in shambles and a company that will probably never make a profit again, that says something pertinent about just how screwed up the markets are."  He would be right about that.

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France’s ‘super-rich’ take their fortunes to Belgium

A fifth of France’s 100 richest people have moved a total of €17 billion to neighbouring Belgium in recent years, a report showed at the weekend, saying the exodus is largely due to French socialist President François Hollande’s tax policies.

The report, published in Belgian financial daily L’Echo, lists France’s richest man, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, media moguls Stéphane Courbit and Bernard Tapie, as well as the Mulliez family, which controls the Auchan supermarket chain, among those who have made the move.

But many of France’s wealthy appear to have crossed over the border only recently.

Many “have shown up in the past three years, in other words since François Hollande was inaugurated as president,” the paper writes, attributing it to the socialist government’s pressure to get the economy back into the black amid soaring unemployment and a ballooning deficit. 

This news item showed up on the france24.com Internet site sometime on Monday---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Putin, Merkel Discuss Ukrainian Ceasefire, Gas Deliveries to Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed in a phone call on Monday the situation around the current ceasefire regime and deliveries of Russian gas to Europe, the Kremlin said.

"Putin and Merkel exchanged opinions on the situation with deliveries of Russian natural gas to EU member-states and agreed that the consultations in a three party format should continue," a statement on the Kremlin website said.

The leaders also discussed the development of the situation in Ukraine with focus on the importance of strict compliance with the ceasefire regime by the sides of the internal Ukrainian conflict and the effective monitoring of the situation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Kremlin said.

This article appeared on the RIA Novosti website at 11:57 p.m. Moscow time on their Monday night, which was 3:57 p.m. in New York.  I thank South African reader B.V. for sharing it with us.

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Gas onus on Ukraine, Gazprom says

Reliable natural gas deliveries to Europe depend largely on contractual issues in Ukraine, Russian energy company Gazprom said Tuesday.

Gazprom in June cut gas supplies to Ukraine because of ongoing disputes over pricing and debt. Ukraine pays some of the highest prices for natural gas in the region. Russia had offered a discounted price, though the Ukrainian government said it suspected the offer was politically motivated.

Russia meets about a quarter of Europe's gas needs, though most of that gas runs through the Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine. Similar rows in 2006 and 2009 left European consumers in the cold and Gazprom says the onus is now on Ukraine.

This UPI article put in an appearance on their website at 10:28 a.m. EDT on Tuesday---and it's the second contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Russia Central Bank Responds To Domestic Dollar Shortage, Starts Currency Swaps

With the ruble hitting record lows once again today against the U.S. dollar, it appears concerns over U.S. dollar liquidity are growing in Russia. The Russian central bank has unveiled an FX swap operation, allowing firms to borrow dollars in exchange for Rubles for a duration of 1 day (at a cost of 7%p.a.). Of course, this squeeze on USD funding - driven by Western sanctions - will, instead of isolating Russia, force Russian companies (finding USD transactions prohibitively expensive) into the CNY-axis, thus further strengthening the Yuanification of world trade and the ultimate demise of the USD as reserve currency.

And funding sanctions appear to have driven the Central Bank to supply U.S. dollar liquidity into an apparently squeezed market...

As Bloomberg reports---"Sanctions and closed access to foreign-exchange liquidity from the West” is feeding demand for dollars, DmitryPolevoy, chief economist ING.

Foreign-exchange liquidity has “virtually dried out,” with volumes sinking to about $100 million per day, compared with $1 billion to $2 billion previously, according to Natalia Orlova, the chief economist for OAOAlfa Bank in Moscow.

This article appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 2:50 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and it's another contribution from reader B.V.

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What draws Modi to China

Modi is due to visit the U.S. in exactly twelve days from now. But there is nothing of the American rhetoric that used to mark a Manmohan Singh visit to the White House.

An idea was thought of initially to propitiate Modi by granting him the privilege of addressing the US Congress. But it has been quietly shelved.

The heart of the matter is that there had been a pronounced 'militarization' of India's strategic outlook through the past 10-15 years, which was a period of high growth in the economy that seemed to last forever.

In those halcyon days, geopolitics took over strategic discourses and pundits reveled in notions of India's joint responsibility with the United States, the sole superpower, to secure the global commons and the 'Indo-Pacific'. 

This longish commentary falls into the must read category, especially for any serious student of the New Great Game.  It was posted on the Asia Times website yesterday sometime---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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China's leaders refuse to blink as economy slows drastically

China’s leaders have brushed aside warnings of an incipient credit crunch in the Chinese economy, determined to purge excesses from the financial system despite falling house prices and the deepest industrial slowdown since the Lehman crisis.

Industrial production dropped 0.4pc in August from a month earlier, a rare event that highlights how quickly China is coming off the boil. The growth of fixed asset investment fell to record lows.

“It is a shockingly sharp deceleration,” said Wei Yao, from Société Générale. “What is surprising is the calm response from Beijing. The new leadership’s tolerance for short-term pain seems to have jumped by another big notch.”

Electricity output has dropped 2.2pc over the past year as the authorities continue to force dinosaur industries into closure, chipping away at excess capacity.

This commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard showed up on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 7:59 p.m. BST on Monday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.  It's worth reading.

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Three King World News Blogs

1. John Embry: "War in Silver Rages as People’s Confidence in the West Fades".  2. Stephen Leeb: "China, Russia, Gold---and a New World Order Rising From the East"  3. Jeffrey Saut: "Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, City Slickers---and Just One Thing"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed] 

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Gartman Letter cites Koos Jansen and Gold Newsletter on Chinese gold demand

Regarding Chinese gold demand, which we wrote about yesterday, it is open to debate and our old friend, Brien Lundin of the Jefferson Companies in New Orleans, wrote to share his insights. We've chosen to share them further with our readers, with his approval. Brien wrote:

* * *
Hi, Dennis:

In your letter this morning, you noted that Chinese gold demand was recently reported to be down about 50 percent year over year. This is erroneous information from the World Gold Council, as I've been noting in Gold Newsletter -- that there's a lot of misinformation on this topic. The mainstream financial media keeps parroting numbers from the World Gold Council and other sources, which typically rely on import statistics from Hong Kong.

However, China has recently opened up new ports of entry for gold, a move that has correspondingly reduced the import numbers from Hong Kong.

"Much more relevant are gold delivery statistics from the Shanghai Gold Exchange, which directly indicate wholesale gold demand in China. Koos Jansen is today's leading reporter of Chinese gold demand dynamics, and he relies on the Shanghai Gold Exchange numbers for his analyses. Using the SGE reports, Jansen notes that Chinese gold demand year to date is down about 17 percent from last year's torrid pace.

This commentary appeared in a GATA dispatch yesterday.

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China advances gold exchange launch, Singapore delays contract

China will launch its international gold exchange 11 days ahead of schedule, sources said on Tuesday, racing ahead in the scramble to set up an Asian bullion benchmark as rival Singapore is forced to delay its gold contract due to technical issues.

Asia, home to the world's top two gold buyers - China and India, has been clamouring to gain pricing power over the metal and challenge the dominance of London and New York in trading.

The state-run Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) will launch the global gold bourse in the Shanghai free-trade zone on Thursday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The SGE had initially planned the launch for Sept. 29.

This gold-related article showed up on the Reuters website at 12:41 a.m. on Tuesday---and it's another story I found over at the gata.org Internet site.

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Gold's move from West to East is said intended to rebalance FX reserves

China may join other emerging countries in boosting gold reserves as the precious metal makes up a smaller share of its foreign-exchange holdings compared with developed economies, said a London-based researcher.

The country hasn't announced any changes to state gold reserves since authorities in 2009 said holdings totaled 1,054.1 metric tons. While China holds the world's biggest foreign-exchange reserves, bullion accounts for 1.1 percent of the total, compared with about 70 percent for the U.S. and Germany, the biggest gold holders, World Gold Council data show.

"It is clear that Western central banks over time will be reducing their reserves and China and other Asian countries will be increasing," David Marsh, managing director at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, said in a Sept. 11 interview in Beijing. "Gold will become more traded among central banks in the next 30 years because there are colossal imbalances in world gold holdings as a percentage of overall asset reserves."

Central banks, net buyers of gold for 14 straight quarters, last year helped limit bullion's losses that were the most since 1981 and may increase purchases to as much as 500 tons this year after adding 409 tons last year, the London-based council said Aug. 14. The precious metal rose 3 percent this year as geopolitical tensions boosted demand for a haven.

I found this Bloomberg story embedded in a GATA release yesterday---and it's certainly worth reading.

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Sep 16, 2014

BIS central bank warns against 'illusion of permanent liquidity'

Loose monetary policies have created an "illusion of permanent liquidity" that is spurring investors to make risky bets and push up asset prices, the Bank for International Settlements said Sunday.

"The longer the music plays and the louder it gets, the more deafening is the silence that follows," Claudio Borio, who heads the BIS's monetary and economic unit, told reporters.

"Markets will not be liquid when that liquidity is needed most," he warned, urging "sound prudential policies (and) extra prudence on the part of market participants themselves".

This AFP story appeared on the france24.com Internet site at 4:25 p.m. Europe time on Sunday---and I thank South African reader B.V. for today's first story.  Reuters had a similar story.  It was headlined "Central banks inflating 'elevated' asset prices: BIS"---and I found that one at the gata.org Internet site on Sunday.

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Inflation Watch: How Much $1 Used To Get You!

The dollar ain't quite what it used to be.  While a buck can't get you more than a quick snack today, you once could get three barrels of whiskey or ounce of silver for it.  Here are a few things that you used to get for just 110 cents from inflation [rampant money printing - Ed] stepped in.

This tiny, but very interesting article, is certainly worth a minute of your time.  It showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 3:06  p.m. EDT on Sunday---and it's courtesy of reader Harry Grant.

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Record S&P 500 Masks 47% of NASDAQ Mired in Bear Market

Beneath the U.S. stock market’s record-setting gains, trouble is stirring.

About 47 percent of stocks in the NASDAQ Composite Index are down at least 20 percent from their peak in the last 12 months while more than 40 percent have fallen that much in the Russell 2000 Index and the Bloomberg IPO Index. That contrasts with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which has closed at new highs 33 times in 2014 and where less than 6 percent of companies are in bear markets, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The divergence shows the appetite for risk is narrowing as the Federal Reserve reins in economic stimulus after a five-year rally that added almost $16 trillion to equity values. It’s been three years since investors saw a 10 percent decline in the S&P 500 and they’re starting to avoid companies that will suffer the most when the market stumbles, said Skip Aylesworth, a portfolio manager for Hennessy Funds in Boston.

No surprises here, as this bubble is being blown up by fewer stocks each passing day.  This Bloomberg article, filed from New York, showed up on their Internet site at 2:33 p.m. Denver time on Monday---and it's another article I found in a GATA release.

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Deutsche Bank Strategists: Bonds are in a Bubble

Most of the bubble talk these days focuses on stocks. But Deutsche Bank strategists led by Jim Reid see frothiness brewing in the global government bond market.

"The worry is that there is nowhere left for this bubble to go given that it is now in the hands of the lenders of last resort (governments and central banks with regulators ensuring other large captive buyers)," they write in a commentary obtained by MarketWatch.

"Although we think this bubble needs to be maintained to ensure the solvency of the current financial system, the best case scenario is that it slowly pops over time via negative real returns for bondholders. The worst-case scenario being future restructuring."

The Barclays U.S. Treasury 20-Year-Plus index has returned 15.5 percent so far this year.

Bond-investment star Jeff Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital, doesn't see a bubble brewing in Treasurys. He told CNBC that doesn't anticipate major moves by Treasurys for the rest of the year, with the Federal Reserve unlikely to raise interest rates anytime soon.

This article put in an appearance on the moneynews.com Internet site at 9:08 p.m. EDT on Sunday evening---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sharing it with us.

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NYT: Subprime Loans Rear Their Ugly Heads Again

Remember the subprime mortgage loans that helped spark the 2008-09 financial crisis?

They may be gone for a while, but other areas of the subprime lending market, particularly auto loans, have begun to look worrisome, The New York Times reports.

Deep subprime auto loans, those made to people with credit scores below 550, soared 13 percent in the second quarter from the year-earlier period, according to Experian.

"We're five years into the new cycle, so you've got to imagine that there are excesses cropping up," William Ryan of Portales Partners research firm told the paper.

Why should anyone be surprised at this turn of events?  This is another news item from the moneynews.com Internet site.  This one showed up there at 1:31 p.m. EDT yesterday---and it's the second offering in a row from Elliot Simon.

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Calpers to Exit Hedge Funds, Divest $4 Billion Stake

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System plans to divest the entire $4 billion that it has with hedge funds, saying they’re too expensive and complex.

The decision to eliminate 24 hedge funds and six hedge fund-of-funds, isn’t related to the performance of the program, said Ted Eliopoulos, the interim chief investment officer. The board of the $298 billion pension, known as Calpers, hasn’t decided where to invest the money after the pullout, which will take about a year, he said.

“We concluded that we would eliminate the hedge fund program in order to reduce the complexity, reduce the costs in the program, particularly in relation to our view that given the scale of Calpers, we would not be able to scale a hedge fund program to a size that would really move the needle,” Eliopoulos said today in an interview.

The largest U.S. pension is getting out of hedge funds even as other large public plans such as New Jersey’s add to the private portfolios. Calpers has been working to reduce risk after the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of its wealth, forcing it to increase contributions from taxpayers to cover losses. Calpers first invested in hedge funds in 2002 to help meet target returns to cover the growing cost of government retiree benefits.

This Bloomberg news item, filed from Sacramento, appeared on their Internet site at 5:30 p.m. EDT yesterday---and I thank reader G. Roberts for sending it our way.

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A constitutional amendment to take Big Money out of U.S. politics dies quietly

This week the U.S. Senate considered a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Congress and state legislatures to limit the power of money in politics. The debate was not much covered in the media because the outcome was so predictable. But the party-line vote that killed it should not go unnoted.

A remarkable majority of the American public — 79 percent according to Gallup — want campaign finance reform. The right and left, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, even Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly agree that, left unchecked, Big Money corrupts politics and undermines democracy.

That was one of the few things Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton agreed on, and both the American and French Revolutions were fought in part to get the financial power and privilege of aristocracy out of governance.

But even George III after Yorktown and Louis XVI on the eve of execution were more popular than Congress is today, and the strangely perverse partisanship that characterized the debate on the amendment this week helps to explain why.

This interesting Reuters article appeared on their website last Friday sometime---and I thank Harry Grant who sent it our way on Saturday.

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Scots Independence Campaign Nears Climax as Polls Diverge

Prime Minister David Cameron will return to Scotland for the second time in a week to fight for the future of the U.K. as campaigning ahead of the referendum on independence reaches its climax.

Activists were out in force across Scotland during the final weekend before the Sept. 18 ballot that might trigger the breakup of the union after more than three centuries. With opinion polls showing contradictory findings, both the “yes” and “no” campaigns said they were poised to win, introducing further uncertainty to financial markets fixed on Scotland.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the head of the pro-independence campaign, and Alistair Darling, the former U.K. chancellor of the exchequer who fronts the Better Together group, reprised arguments today over the economy, the pound and state-funded health care if Scots back independence. With the debate increasingly polarized, the focus now is on appealing to undecided voters in the final three days of the campaign.

This Bloomberg article, co-filed from London and Edinburgh, showed up on their Internet site at 8:30 a.m. MDT on Sunday---and it's the first offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Treasure Map: The NSA Breach of Telekom and Other German Firms

According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as "Evil Olive" and "Egoistic Giraffe." Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, starring Johnny Depp.

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world -- every smartphone, tablet and computer -- is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet -- Any device, anywhere, all the time."

This longish, but very interesting essay, showed up on the German website spiegel.de at noon Europe time on Sunday---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens once again.

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Outrage as E.U. blocks democratic challenge to U.S. trade deal: Comment

There is something rotten in the state of Europe when an unelected, unaccountable EU body can glibly inform millions of us that we no longer have the right to question its most dangerous and unpopular policies.

This is exactly what has just happened, as the European Commission has announced that it will not allow a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) to challenge the secret trade talks it is holding with the US government, supposedly on our behalf.

The ruling is a slap in the face for the 230 civil society organisations from across Europe that have lined up behind the initiative, and the millions of European citizens they represent. The ECI is the only vehicle available to us to challenge the shadowy bureaucrats of the European Commission. Now even this seems to be too much scrutiny for them.

The negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have become one of the hottest political topics across Europe. TTIP is effectively a new bill of rights for multinational corporations, granting them unprecedented powers and undermining vital labour, environmental and food safety standards in the name of 'free' trade.

This commentary appeared on the politics.co.uk Internet website at 10:03 a.m. BST last Friday afternoon---and it's worth reading.   I thank South African reader B.V. for his second contribution to today's column.

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The E.U.’s Fiscal Watchdogs—–Still Howling and Toothless as France and Italy Pile on the Debt

When it comes to fiscal policy in the E.U., you can break whatever fiscal rules you want, provided you are big enough.

France qualifies, so does Germany. If you are small like Greece and Cyprus, then you may find yourself in bed with the Troika.

For the third time France has declared it will heavily overshoot its already twice-delayed budget deficit target next year, setting up tough negotiations with European partners previously reluctant to grant Paris more time to bring its public finances within E.U. limits.

Michel Sapin, finance minister, announced that the required deficit target of 3 per cent of national output was being pushed back a further two years to 2017 in the latest sign of the deep-seated economic problems confronting President François Hollande and his socialist government.

This excellent commentary by Mike 'Mish' Shedlock was posted on David Stockman's website on Sunday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Only a monetary 'nuclear bomb' can save Italy now, says Mediobanca

The OECD has drastically cut its growth forecast for Italy. The depression will drag on though most of 2015.

The economy will contract by 0.4pc this year. It will remain stuck in the doldrums next year with growth of just 0.1pc.

If so, Italy’s public debt will spiral to dangerous levels next year, ever further beyond the point of no return for a country without its own sovereign currency and central bank.

“This is catastrophic for the finances of the country. We’re heading for a debt ratio of 145pc next year,” said Antonio Guglielmi, global strategist for Mediobanca.

This Ambrose Evans-Pritchard blog is datelined Monday---and it's certainly worth reading.  I thank Roy Stephens once again.

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Slovak Prime Minister Warns Ukraine of ‘Ultimate Disintegration’

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico on Saturday warned Ukraine about the perils associated with the European and possibly NATO integration, saying the east European nation was tittering on the brink of an ultimate collapse.

"I think that Ukraine will find it hard to stand against all the challenges associated with the EU integration, because it is now facing an absolute disintegration… I also disagree with the assumption that Ukraine could one day become a NATO member since this would undermine security in the region," Fico said in an interview with the Bratislava-based newspaper Novy Cas.

"Only diplomatic steps can put an end to what is now happening in Ukraine. Look, there's already been a third wave of senseless sanctions, and what has changed? Nothing. We can only expect more firm response measures from Russia," the Slovak official noted.

Robert Fico also told the country's daily that he would sooner step down than see a NATO military base built in Slovakia.

This short, but very interesting article put in an appearance on the RIA Novosti website at 9:16 p.m. Moscow time on their Saturday evening, which was 3:16 p.m. in New York.

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Dutch stage tomato fight against Russian sanctions

Dutch stage tomato fight against Russian sanctions, and under one of the photos it says; The Netherlands vies with Mexico as the world's largest tomato exporter, and it sent $100 million worth to Russia last year. Dutch farmers have been offered a subsidy to either dispose of excess crops or donate them to food banks.

This 6-photo AP 'news' item appeared on the cbc.ca website, but it doesn't say what day.  I thank reader 'Andres A' for bringing it to our attention.

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NATO members 'start arms deliveries to Ukraine'

NATO countries have started delivering arms to Ukraine to help its soldiers fight pro-Russian separatists in the east, the defence minister says.

Valery Heletey did not give details of the weapons being delivered or name the countries involved.

A similar statement earlier was denied by five NATO members, including the U.S.

This article appeared on the bbc.com Internet site at 3:07 p.m. EDT on Sunday afternoon---and it's courtesy of reader James Skinner.

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Lavrov: No haste in MH17 tragedy probe, despite media hype

The report on the Malaysian jet crash is very “calm” and doesn’t provide much information about the tragedy, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He added that despite all the hype around the crash, the investigators do not seem to be in a hurry.

In a Saturday interview to Russian channel TV-Center, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed he was disappointed by the latest report from Dutch experts on the reasons of Malaysia airplane crash. Malaysian airplane with 298 people on board crashed in Donetsk region July 17. Many western media outlets started accusing Russia without providing any evidence.

However, despite the political tensions, the report provided by the Dutch Safety Board from September 9 is “calm” while the investigators are taking their time with the probe.

“There are no demands that experts resume their work at the crash site,” Lavrov said. “There were also no attempts to go there to collect, as they say, the wreckage and to see how the whole plane looked like. Nobody spoke about it out loud.”

This Russia Today news item appeared on their website at 2:15 p.m. Moscow time on their Saturday afternoon, which was 6:15 a.m. EDT.  It's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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E.U., Kiev, Moscow gas talks suspended

A spokesperson for the Russian Energy Ministry said Monday it was postponing trilateral talks with the European Union and Ukraine.

Talks were scheduled for Saturday. A ministry spokesperson told state news agency RIA Novosti an alternate date depended on Energy Minister Alexander Novak's schedule.

"We told the European Commission that the proposed date is not suitable for us," the spokesperson said. "Another date is being discussed."

The European Union last week enforced new sanctions on the Russian energy sector in response to ongoing crises in eastern Ukraine.

This UPI story, filed from Moscow, appeared on their website at 8:58 a.m. EDT on Monday---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Washington’s War Against Russia — Paul Craig Roberts

The new sanctions against Russia announced by Washington and Europe do not make sense as merely economic measures. I would be surprised if Russian oil and military industries were dependent on European capital markets in a meaningful way. Such a dependence would indicate a failure in Russian strategic thinking. The Russian companies should be able to secure adequate financing from Russian Banks or from the Russian government. If foreign loans are needed, Russia can borrow from China.

If critical Russian industries are dependent on European capital markets, the sanctions will help Russia by forcing an end to this debilitating dependence. Russia should not be dependent on the West in any way.

The real question is the purpose of the sanctions. My conclusion is that the purpose of the sanctions is to break up and undermine Europe’s economic and political relations with Russia. When international relations are intentionally undermined, war can be the result. Washington will continue to push sanctions against Russia until Russia shows Europe that there is a heavy cost of serving as Washington’s tool.

This commentary by Paul was posted on this website on Sunday---and certainly falls into the must read category, especially for all students of the New Great Game.

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Iran Blames U.S. for Violating States’ Sovereignty Under Pretext of Fighting IS

The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani blamed Washington for violating Syria’s and other regional countries’ sovereignty, Straits Times reports.

“The U.S. seeks to continue its unilateralism and violate the countries’ sovereignty under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” said Shamkhani in a statement, cited by the official IRNA news agency.

He also expressed his doubts concerning the efficiency of U.S. counter-terrorism policy, claiming that airstrikes targeting ISIS fighters won’t have any positive effect and will only strengthen the radical group’s positions.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani supported Shamkhani’s position, calling US strategy “irrational”. He said that U.S. way of countering terrorism would not lead to transformation in the Middle-East and help to dismantle ISIS, but rather cause waves of alienation and resentment in the region.

This article was posted on the RIA Novosti website at 9:25 p.m. on Saturday evening Moscow time---and I thank reader B.V. for finding it for us.

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Iran refuses to help 'self-serving' U.S. fight ISIS

Iran has refused an offer from the United States to join a global alliance preparing to combat Islamic State militants, according to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei said Monday that the US offered to discuss a coordinated effort with Iran against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), a common foe in the region, in the midst of an escalating campaign of violence that continues to claim lives across Iraq in Syria.

“The American ambassador in Iraq asked our ambassador (in Iraq) for a session to discuss coordinating a fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” said Khamenei, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Our ambassador in Iraq reflected this to us, which was welcomed by some (Iranian) officials, but I was opposed. I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky.

This is a news item that appeared on the Russia Today website at 4:20 p.m. Moscow time on their Monday afternoon---and it's the second last contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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China to invest $100 billion in India over 5 years

Chinese president Xi Jinping will bring along with him $100 billion or Rs 6 lakh crore of investment commitments over five years during his upcoming India visit next week. This is nearly thrice the $35 billion secured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Japan trip.

Jinping will land in Modi's home state Gujarat on September 17 — the Prime Minister's birthday — following his visit of Tajikistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Confirming this, Liu Youfa, China's consul-general in Mumbai, told TOI, "On a conservative estimate, I can say that we will commit investments of over $100 billion or thrice the investments committed by Japan during our President Xi Jinping's visit next week. These will be made in setting up of industrial parks, modernization of railways, highways, ports, power generation, distribution and transmission, automobiles, manufacturing, food processing and textile industries."

The above three paragraphs are all there is to this brief story that appeared on The Times of India website at 1:55 a.m. IST on their Saturday morning---and it's the final offering of the day from reader B.V.

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Snowden claims NSA collected data on New Zealanders

Documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claim Australian and New Zealand Internet data on private citizens was collected by the NSA.

The documents indicate a major undersea telecommunications cable -- linking New Zealand, Australia and North America -- was tapped to collect the data, beginning in 2012 or early 2013. Moreover, the documents suggest the government of New Zealand was aware of the program.

Information on the data collection was published Monday in the Sydney, Australia, Morning Herald and the website The Intercept.

New Zealand Prime Minster John Key denied his country's intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, was involved in the mass surveillance of citizens, although Snowden claimed Key was aware of the program.

This UPI article, filed from Auckland, showed up on their website 10:37 a.m. EDT on Monday.  It's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens, for which I thank him.

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Seven King World News Blogs/Audio Interviews

1. David P:  "Gold, Crazy Markets, War in Russia---and "The Entrance to Hell"  2. Dr. Paul Craig Roberts: "Accuses U.S. Banks of Gold and Silver Smash"  3. Robert Fitzwilson: "The Global Ticking Time Bomb, Economic War---and World War III"  4. James Turk: "We Are About to See a Repeat of 2011 in Gold and Silver"  5. Richard Russell: "Total Systemic Failure---and Worst U.S. Nightmare"  6. The first audio interview is with John Mauldin---and the second audio interview is with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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Sprott Money's Weekly Wrap-Up interviews your humble scribe

With Eric and John not available for the second Friday in a row, I drew the short straw once again.  This audio interview runs for 7:36 minutes---and it was posted on the sprottmoney.com Internet site on Friday.

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Koos Jansen: China again buys the dip in gold---and silver gets scarcer

Declining gold prices again have pushed demand up on the Shanghai Gold Exchange as China buys the dips, while silver inventories on the Shanghai Futures Exchange continue to fall, gold researcher and GATA consultant Koos Jansen reports.

It was posted on the bullionstar.com Internet site on Friday at 3:57 p.m. Singapore time---and I found it embedded in a GATA release yesterday.  I thank Chris Powell for wordsmithing the above paragraph of introduction.

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Ron Paul: Will the Swiss vote to get their gold back?

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul writes today that he hopes that the people of Switzerland vote to repatriate their gold when they hold a referendum on the issue on November 30.

Paul argues that approval of the proposal at referendum will repudiate the financial elites behind unlimited government. He writes:

"The Swiss people appreciate the work their forefathers put into building up large gold reserves, a respected currency, and a strong, independent banking system. They do not want to see centuries of struggle squandered by a central bank. The results of the November referendum may be a bellwether, indicating just how strong popular movements can be in establishing central bank accountability and returning gold to a monetary role."

Paul's commentary is headlined "Will the Swiss Vote to Get Their Gold Back?" and it was posted at the Internet site of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity on Sunday.  This article is one I found on the gata.org Internet site on Monday.

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Anxious Scottish investors have been buying gold

Scottish investment in physical gold has surged by 42 percent in the past fortnight -- on top of the traditional rise in gold demand at this time of the year.

The figure, which comes from Bullionvault.com, the world's biggest online platform for private investors who want to trade physical gold and silver, suggests that anxious Scotland-based investors are turning to gold as a means of insuring against the uncertainties posed by a 'yes' vote in Thursday's referendum.

Bullionvault analysed customer data over the year, stripping out those of 50,000 customers who lived in the UK and then dividing this group further into postcodes north and south of the border.

It then averaged the proportion of transactions typically undertaken by Scotland-based traders out of the whole of the UK over the past year. That figure was then compared to the proportion of Scottish transactions undertaken in the first half of September.

This gold-related news story was posted on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 2:36 p.m. BST on their Monday afternoon---and it's another article I found over at the gata.org Internet site yesterday.

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Export Growth to Lift Italian Gold Jewellery Demand and Bullion Imports to Six-Year High

Metallis are releasing this snapshot on Italy’s export-focused gold jewellery fabrication to coincide with the recent conclusion of the Vicenza Fair as this marks a good opportunity to review developments so far this year and prospects for the rest of 2014 for Italy and its main overseas markets.

The key findings of the consultancy’s recent research is that Italian gold jewellery demand is on track to rise 11% in 2014 to a six-year high of 128 tonnes. This marks a continuation of the growth seen in 2013, when fabrication made a historic turnaround; then a 24% rebound began a recovery from a decade or so of consecutive losses.

Domestic scrap is also forecast to finish 2014 down 22%, while inflows of scrap could fall by almost 30%. All this is slated to lift gross gold bullion imports by 15% to just over 105 tonnes, their highest level since 2008.

Even stronger growth of 39% for the first half is reported in shipments to China/Hong Kong. Meader noted, “this boom is interesting as it shows the 18-carat segment in China is still going strong, even if the far larger 24-carat sector, which Italy doesn’t serve, couldn’t match 2013’s heady results”.

This interesting story appeared on the sharpspixley.com Internet site on September 5.

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Private homes in Iran hold more gold than Central Bank

The Shahrvand Daily reports that according to Gold and Jewelry Producers and Exporters, more than 100 tonnes of the country's gold is stashed in people's homes.

Although the former head of Iran's Central Bank under the Ahmadinejad administration had said the Bank had 500 tonnes of gold in storage, recent reports from the Central Bank put its gold stores at 90 tonnes: in other words, less than what is stored in Iranian homes.

The report by Shahrvand indicates: "Few countries in the world see the public move toward buying gold or foreign currency as investment and steering away from investing in production and adding value to the economy."

These three paragraphs are all there is to this gold-related story that appeared on the pyavand.com Internet site on Sunday---and it's another article I found on the sharpspixley.com Internet site.

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AngloGold Ashanti of South Africa Abandons Spin Off Plans

AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s largest gold mining firms, said on Monday that it would abandon plans to spin off its international mining operations and raise $2.1 billion in new capital.

The company, based in Johannesburg, said last week that it was planning to spin off its operations outside of South Africa into a new entity to be listed in London. AngloGold Ashanti had also sought to raise new capital in order to reduce its debt ahead of the restructuring.

On Monday, the company said that a number of shareholders, although supportive of the strategic logic of the transaction, expressed concerns about several aspects of the deal, including the level of fund-raising needed for the restructuring to go forward.

“AngloGold Ashanti has, therefore, decided not to proceed with the restructuring and capital raising, as currently proposed,” the company said in a news release on Friday. “The company will continue to evaluate all options to address debt levels and unlock value, taking into account the feedback from its shareholders and its business needs.”

This news story showed up on The New York Times website at 9:31 a.m. EDT on Monday---and it's another story that Chris Powell posted on the gata.org website yesterday.

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South African gold, PGM, diamond and copper outputs down sharply

The South African mining sector seems to be going through a particularly rough patch at the moment and this will also have a strongly negative effect on the country’s economy given the importance of metals and minerals in the country’s exports. According the latest Statistics South Africa preliminary data for July, the country’s overall mining production decreased by 7.7% year-on-year.

Not surprisingly, given that the month covered the tail end of the country’s debilitating platinum mining strike, platinum group metals output was down a huge 45.2% year on year.  PGMs had been one of the country’s most significant metal exports of late having comfortably overtaken gold – which, somewhat surprisingly, also saw a 14.6% year on year reduction in output.  Diamond production was down 10% and copper 15.9%

Top places for South African mineral sales values in July were held by coal at R8.13 billion (US$739 million) and iron ore R5.16 billion (US$469 million) despite the fall in global prices for these bulk metals and minerals. Even with the strike impact, PGMs followed close behind at R5.1 billion ($464 million) with gold nowadays only at R3.69 billion ($335 million).

The above three paragraphs are all there is to this interesting story that was posted on the mineweb.com website last Friday.  It's certainly worth skimming.

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Indian trade deficit widens as gold imports surge 176%

India's trade deficit widened in August from a year earlier as imports of gold surged 176 percent after policy makers eased shipment curbs.

The shortfall was $10.8 billion last month, wider than $10.7 billion a year earlier, with exports rising 2.4 percent and imports growing 2.1 percent. Gold shipments surged to $2 billion from $739 million in August last year after the government allowed more banks and traders to buy bullion overseas.

India is easing emergency measures taken when the current-account deficit widened to an all-time high, as faster growth boosts inflows. While the shortfall will widen this year through March 2015 after shrinking in the previous 12 months, it will stay sustainable, according to a Reserve Bank of India report last month.

"We can manage with monthly gold imports of about $2 billion and the jump in the August number is largely due to last year's low base after a sudden clampdown," Shubhada Rao, an economist at Yes Bank Ltd. in Mumbai, said yesterday. "The jump may look alarming, but there is no reason for panic."

This Bloomberg article, filed from New Delhi, put in an appearance on their Internet site at 12:30 p.m. Denver time on Monday---and it's another gold-related story I found over at the gata.org Internet net site.

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Diver Finds 2,750-year-old Gold Coin in Bulgaria

A diver has found what is believed to be the oldest gold coin ever discovered in Bulgaria, Bulgarian news agency BTA reported on September 9. The coin was found in shallow waters near the resort town of Sozopol on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.

The diver saw the gleaming coin by accident, the report said, and later passed it on to Bozhidar Dimitrov – a native of Sozopol and former diver himself, who is now head of the National History Museum in Sofia.

BTA quoted numismatist Vladimir Penchev from the National History Museum saying that the coin is not solid gold, but made of electrum – the naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, used to mint some of the earliest metal coins in human history.

This particular coin appears to have been minted in the kingdom of Lydia in western Anatolya, sometime in the second half of the seventh century BCE, which put the coin’s age at more than 2750 years, he said.

This short, but very interesting article---with a photo to match---was posted on the sofiaglobe.com Internet site last Tuesday---and it's another article that Chris Powell posted on the gata.org Internet site yesterday.

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Sep 13, 2014

Yahoo Faced $250,000-Day Fine for Not Giving U.S. User Data

Yahoo! Inc. said the U.S. government threatened in 2008 to fine it $250,000 a day for refusing to comply with national security-related requests for its users’ Internet data.

In small victory for Yahoo’s legal challenges to U.S. surveillance practices, a court today permitted the company to release 1,500 pages of documents that shed light on the scope and force of the government’s data-collection methods.

The company and competitors including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. have been trying to protect their reputations following revelations that began in June 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency had access to information about the Internet use of the companies’ customers. Yahoo first challenged the NSA requests in court in 2007-2008.

This news item showed up on the newsmax.com Internet site at 6:27 p.m. EDT on Thursday evening---and it's courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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IEA again cuts forecasts for oil demand

The International Energy Agency Thursday trimmed its forecast for the rise in oil demand this year for the third month in a row, calling the recent slowdown in demand “nothing short of remarkable.”

In its closely watched monthly oil market report, the Paris-based energy watchdog said it expects global oil demand to grow by 0.9 million barrels a day in 2014, a decrease of 65,000 barrels a day compared with last month’s forecast and down by 300,000 barrels a day since July.

According to the IEA, oil demand growth in the second quarter was at its lowest in 2½ years, dented by economic weakness in Europe and China, a trend the agency expects will continue to weigh on demand.

This article appeared on the marketwatch.com Internet site at 5:18 a.m. EDT on Thursday morning---and I thank 'David in California' for sharing it with us.

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Alasdair Macleod: Currency turbulence

You'd think that the U.S. dollar has suddenly become strong, and the chart below of the other three major currencies confirms it.

The U.S. dollar is the risk-free currency for international accounting, because it is the currency on which all the others are based. And it is clear that three months ago dollar exchange rates against the three currencies shown began to strengthen notably.

However, each of the currencies in the chart has its own specific problems driving it weaker. The yen is the embodiment of financial kamikaze, with the Abe government destroying it through debasement as a cover-up for a budget deficit that is beyond its control. The pound is being poleaxed by a campaign to keep Scotland in the union which has backfired, plus a deferral of interest rate expectations. 

And the euro sports negative deposit rates in the belief they will cure the Eurozone's gathering slump, which if it develops unchecked will threaten the stability of Europe's banks.

So far this has been mainly a race to the bottom, with the dollar on the side-lines. The US economy, which is officially due to recover (as it has been expected to every year from 2008) looks like it's still going nowhere. Indeed, if you apply a more realistic deflator than the one that is officially calculated, there is a strong argument that the US has never recovered since the Lehman crisis.

This commentary by Alasdair was posted on the goldmoney.com Internet site on Friday BST sometime---and I plucked it from a GATA release yesterday.

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Martin Hutchinson: The death spiral of capitalism

No less than six sovereign borrowers are now paying negative nominal interest rates on their 2-year borrowing in euros. In other words, they are making money by going into debt. In real terms, medium-term U.S. TIPS and British index-linked gilts have had negative interest rates for several years. Contrary to the views of the happy Keynesians around us, this is very dangerous indeed. If negative interest rates were to persist, the world's stock of capital would eventually disappear. Without capital, we'd be back up the trees.

You don't even have to be a decent credit risk to borrow money at negative interest rates in euros—France's 2-year bond yield has just turned negative. Since France hasn't balanced its budget since 1969 and is enduring a prolonged period of stagnation caused by having one of the world's largest public sectors, to rational investors it ranks as a credit with substantial risk. Of course, today's bond-market investors aren't rational; their brains are fogged by six-years-and-counting of monetary "stimulus."

Negative interest rates are damaging for savers, who can't earn a return on their money without taking undue risks. However, over time they are even more damaging to the financial system as a whole because they reduce the capital stock outstanding, thereby de-capitalizing the economy. If risk-free interest rates are minus 1% in real terms, then after a year the capital stock is 1% smaller than it had been a year earlier (absent substantial net new savings). Of course, some investors have earned positive real returns by taking risks, but over the business cycle as a whole, those returns will disappear, as the risks turn out to have been misguided.

This longish essay, which is certainly worth reading if you have the time, was posted on the prudentbear.com Internet site on Monday.

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Doug Noland: "King Dollar and the Peripheries"

An interesting week saw that Brazilian real get hammered for 4.2%, as Brazil’s stocks sank 6.2%. Venezuela Credit default swap (CDS) prices surged 158 bps to 1,464 bps (lagging Argentina at 1,840!). Turkish stocks were hit for 5.3%, in what Bloomberg called the emerging-market stocks’ “steepest decline in 15 months.” Commodities currencies were also pummeled. The Australian dollar dropped 3.6%, the South African rand 3.0%, the New Zealand dollar 2.1% and the Canadian dollar 1.9%. The Goldman Sachs Commodities Index was hit for 2.4%, trading this week to the lowest level since the tumultuous summer of 2012. Brent crude fell to a two-year low, wheat to a 50-week low and gold to an eight-month low. Spanish yields jumped 30bps, with Italian yields up 20 bps and France’s 17 bps. U.S. junk bond CDS jumped 21 bps this week. In the face of unsettled global risk markets, 10-year Treasuries jumped 15 bps this week.

Market and macro analysis remains extraordinarily challenging. The U.S. economy shows momentum and financial conditions remain ultra-loose. Wall Street strategists are universally bullish. A recent survey (Investors Intelligence) had the smallest reading of bears since 1987. Sentiment is buoyed by the view that it will be years before the Fed raises rates to the point where they would weigh on risk asset prices.

It’s no surprise that I see the greatest financial Bubble in history. I believe asset market inflation and Bubbles have been fueled by speculative leverage exceeding pre-2008 crisis levels. I see global financial and economic imbalances that have been exacerbated by six years of the most extreme monetary policy measures. By now, this type of analysis has been completely discredited. Few will care that I discern acute vulnerabilities.

Doug's latest Credit Bubble Bulletin didn't show up on the prudentbear.com Internet site until late Friday evening---and I'd been checking for it for hours on end, as I knew it would fall directly into the absolute must read category, which it does.

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Russian Sailors to Take Part in Mistral Warship Sea Trials in France

Russian sailors, who are currently training to crew Mistral-class helicopter carriers, built in France for the Russian Navy, will go to sea Saturday morning to take part in sea trials of the first ship ordered by Moscow, the Vladivostok, a source familiar with the situation told RIA Novosti.

"Yes, Vladivostok will indeed sail Saturday morning for tests. As far as I know, about 200 Russian sailors and the same number of French personnel will be on board," the source said.

This is the first time the ship goes to the sea since the two crews of Russian sailors, a total of 400 people, arrived in the French town of Saint-Nazaire in June.

This news story was posted on the RIA Novosti website at 10:53 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday evening---and it's the first contribution of the day from South African reader B.V.

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Hollande pledges to expand France’s role in battle against IS

President François Hollande promised on a visit to Baghdad Friday to increase French military aid to Iraq to help the country in its battle against a jihadist insurgency by the Islamic State (IS) organisation.

"I came here to Baghdad to state France's availability in providing even more military assistance to Iraq," he told a press conference alongside Iraqi President Fuad Masum.

Hollande did not specify what form an increase in military aid would take, reserving the details until after a conference on Iraqi security set for September 15 in Paris.

“The goal (of the conference) is to coordinate aid, support and action for the unity of Iraq and against this terrorist group,” Hollande told journalists.

This story showed up on the france24.com website on Friday sometime---and I thank Orlando, Florida reader Dennis Mong for finding it for us.

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1.8m people, 11km line: Catalonians stage their biggest independence rally

Europe saw one of the largest demonstrations in recent years: at least 1.8 million people formed an 11km red-yellow line to show their support for the upcoming independence referendum. A mosaic was made in the form of a 'V' for 'vote'.

At least 1.8 million Catalans, dressed in red and yellow, the colors of the Catalan flag, gathered on Gran Via and Avenida Diagonal, two of the main streets in Barcelona. Seen from the air, the rally formed a 'V' 11km long. According to the organizers, 'V' represented 'vote', 'victory' and 'will' (voluntat in Catalan).

The number of people participated in the rally – 1.8 million - even surpassed the number of population in Barcelona, which is about 1.6 million. There were more people than the whole population in Luxemburg, Lichtenstein, Monaco or Vatican.

This colourful photo essay put in an appearance on the Russia Today website at 11:55 a.m. Moscow time on their Friday morning---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Switzerland's bank fines not tax deductible, cabinet decides

Criminal fines imposed on corporations should not be tax deductible, but tax rebates could be claimed on illegally gained profits that a court has ordered a company to pay back, the Swiss government advised on Friday.

The cabinet was responding to a parliamentary motion to clarify the situation in light of a CHF2.6 billion ($2.8 billion) fine imposed by the United States on Credit Suisse bank earlier this year for the part it played in tax evasion offences.

The suspicion that the bank might try to claim tax expenses against the fine raised political hackles, prompting the motion from centre-left Social Democrat parliamentarian Susanne Leutenegger Oberholzer.

This article appeared on the swissinfo.ch Internet site at 5:47 p.m. Europe time yesterday afternoon---and it's the second offering of the day from South African reader B.V.

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MH17 crash: Investigation focuses on '25 metal shards'

The investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is searching for clues in 25 pieces of metal recovered from bodies and debris.

Dutch officials heading the inquiry say they want to establish whether the iron fragments could prove the theory that a ground-to-air missile struck the plane.

Flight MH17 came down over eastern Ukraine on 17 July, killing all 298 people aboard, mostly Dutch citizens.  The investigation has been hampered by continued fighting near the crash site.

Detectives are relying heavily on forensic samples taken from bodies and baggage, as well as satellite data, interviews with witnesses, computer reconstructions, online evidence and intercepted communications.

This story was posted on the bbc.com Internet site at 11:18 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and it's another contribution from reader B.V.

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Uneasy calm in Ukraine's battle-scarred Donetsk

Since the start of a ceasefire last Friday, a fragile and uneasy calm has descended over eastern Ukraine's rebel stronghold of Donetsk, where the scars of five months of devastating clashes are plain for all to see.

But despite the pause in hostilities, the deep divisions between the separatists and the rest of Ukraine seem more entrenched than ever.

In the northern suburbs of the city, FRANCE 24's reporters encounter rebel soldiers guarding a bridge close to the front line – just a kilometre away, Ukrainian troops are dug in at what was once an international airport.

For the separatists, the ceasefire agreement changes little.

This news item appeared on the france24.com Internet site on Thursday---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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‘There is no sincere will for peace in Ukraine from the main actors in the West’

Russia has been put into an impossible situation, meaning they are responsible not only for what has been done in Lugansk and Donetsk, but also for what has been done on the side of Kiev, political analyst Alexander Pavic told RT.

RT: Apparently, the truce in Ukraine is not enough for the EU to hold back on yet more sanctions. This somewhat contradicts what European leaders were saying earlier, doesn't it?

Alexander Pavic: The ceasefire was, first of all, the reflection of the very bad military situation for the regime in Kiev. They needed a breather to redirect, recompose their troops, to settle their fronts because they were losing badly, they were in danger of losing Mariupol. Unfortunately, the desire for peace was not honest, was not sincere. On the other hand, the chance to present peace should have been taken. We have had for the past few months one side, Russia, which has been bending over backwards to try to de-escalate the situation, we had several European countries who are trying as best as they could to also de-escalate [the situation] and raise the voice against sanctions. I’m talking about countries like Slovakia, even Italy, not official Germany so much but pretty important political forces inside Germany as well. Unfortunately, the voice from Washington and London was stronger, and as a result no ceasefire is going to be prominent until we have a change of direction, change of policy in the White House, in London and until Berlin decides it is working in the favor of Europe and not in favor of the EU, NATO and Anglo-American alliance.

As I've said before, dear reader, the U.S. and Britain want an armed conflict of some sort. This very interesting interview, which I consider worth reading, put in an appearance on the Russia Today website at 12:01 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday afternoon---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.

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Russia, Ukraine, E.U. Reach Compromise on Kiev's European Integration

Russia, Ukraine and the European Union on Friday reached a crucial compromise on Kiev's free trade pact with the E.U. postponing its entry into force until the end of 2015, Russia's economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said.

"Until the date that we agreed upon - the end of 2015 - the Russian Federation pledges not to apply protective measures," Ulyukayev told reporters following the second round of trilateral ministerial talks on Ukraine-E.U. association agreement.

"We will continue the discussion of the issue that concerns us the most - what form [of a solution] we could find to alleviate our worries," Ulyukayev said.

"So far, we have agreed to continue dialogue for the next 15 months, we will present our arguments while our colleagues will offer theirs," the minister added.

This brief news item appeared on the RIA Novosti website at 8:41 p.m. Moscow time [12:41 p.m. EDT] on their Friday evening---and the stories from Roy Stephens just keep on coming.

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West pushes crippling sanctions on Russia's oil industry despite Ukraine ceasefire

Europe and the U.S. are to press ahead with fresh economic sanctions against Russia despite the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, aiming to choke off credit and technology vitally needed to arrest the decline of Russia’s oil industry.

The E.U. is to ban loans to five state-owned banks and three energy companies from Saturday, targeting new oil ventures the Arctic and the Siberia shale basin rather than gas operations.

U.S. President Barack Obama said his country will “deepen and broaden” its own array of measures. These are aimed directly at the Russian oil industry, threatening to paralyse Exxon’s $3.2bn joint venture in the Arctic with Rosneft. The sanctions may force BP to shelve its plans for shale development with Rosneft in the Volga Urals.

The rouble fell to a record low of 37.53 against the dollar. The MICEX index of stocks dipped 1.3pc yet it remains far above levels seen earlier this year, suggesting investors are starting to treat each wave of sanctions as political theatre.

This commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard showed up on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 9:42 p.m. BST on their Thursday evening---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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U.S. intensifies sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

The United States hit Russia's largest bank, a major arms maker and arctic, deep water and shale exploration by its biggest oil companies with new sanctions on Friday to punish Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine.

The sanctions, coordinated with similar European Union steps, were triggered by what the West sees as Moscow's recent effort to destabilize eastern Ukraine by backing pro-Russian separatists with troops, heavy arms and cross-border shelling.. They are the latest economic penalties imposed by the West since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

The sanctions target companies including Sberbank, Russia's largest bank by assets, and Rostec, a conglomerate that makes everything from Kalashnikovs to cars, by limiting their ability to access the U.S. debt markets.

They also bar U.S. companies from selling goods or services to five Russian energy companies to conduct deep water, Arctic offshore and shale projects. The Russian firms affected are Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Rosneft.

This Reuters article, filed from Washington, appeared on their Internet site at 3:32 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and it's another contribution from Dennis Mong.

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Russia Threatens Lawsuits With WTO Over New Western Sanctions

New Western sanctions against Russia give Moscow additional incentives to appeal them in the World Trade Organization as they contradict the WTO regulations, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Friday.

“I believe that even the previous round of sanctions was the reason enough to appeal with the WTO. And we will certainly do it,” Ulyukayev told reporters in Brussels.

“We will not rush the issue and prepare our appeals in the most argumentative and well-warranted manner,” the minister said.

This story appeared on the RIA Novosti website at 9:30 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday evening, which was 1:30 p.m. EDT.  It's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Putin: West Makes Use of Ukrainian Crisis to Destabilize International Situation

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the West uses the crisis in Ukraine to destabilize the international situation, while the country itself is of no interest to anyone.

"I have a conspiracy theory that Ukraine itself is of no interest to anyone, but simply being used as a tool to destabilize international relations," Putin said after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

"Ukraine is used as a tool, as a hostage to the desire of some participants in the international dialogue, to, say revive NATO. And not only as a military organization, but also as one of the key instruments of US foreign policy," the Russian leader said.

This is another story from the RIA Novosti website.  This one put in an appearance there at 8:36 p.m. Moscow time on Friday evening.  It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Russia Containment 2.0---with Stephen Cohen and John Mearshiemer

What does Washington's "containment" policy mean? What threats does it pose? Will it work against today's Russia? And does this mean Washington has declared a new Cold War? CrossTalking with Stephen Cohen and John Mearsheimer.

This excellent 27:42 minute video interview appeared on the Russia Today website in late April---and it's now up on youtube.com.  If you're a student of the New Great Game, this is definitely worth watching.  I thank reader Larry Galearis for bringing it to our attention.

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Sergey Lavrov: Throwing Russia off balance is ultimate aim

In an interview for the ITAR-TASS project 'Top Officials'---Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Washington and some European countries had made a decision to isolate Russia long ago

Over the more than ten years in office as Russia’s foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov has appeared at thousands of news conferences and granted hundreds of interviews. Minutes before the interview that follows (which lasted for more than two hours) he first loosened and took off his necktie. Then he unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, but only the top one.

On the feeling of despair and the boiling point

- Sergey Viktorovich: you’ve had a really hot time for the past six months.

- And it’s not all over yet. Generally speaking, there has been no calm in foreign politics for a long time. But in summer I did have some time for recreation. In Russia, mind you.

- Don’t you get despaired due to the lack of calmness in foreign affairs?

- No, never ever. That’s not the type of feeling I may have deep down in my heart. We cannot afford to get desperate. We must keep doing our job right.

This very long one-on-one interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also a must read for any serious student of the New Great Game.  It was posted on the ITAR-TASS Internet site at 1:11 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon---and it's courtesy of reader B.V.  It had to wait for today's column for length reasons.

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U.S. opposes Iran's presence at French-hosted conference on Iraq

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it was "not appropriate" for Iran to join talks on confronting Islamic State militants, as he appeared to play down how fast countries can commit to force or other steps in an emerging coalition.

Kerry met Turkish leaders to try to secure backing for U.S.-led action against Islamic State militants, but Ankara’s reluctance to play a front line role highlighted the difficulty of building a willing coalition for a complex military campaign in the heart of the Middle East.

As he tours the region to gather support for President Barack Obama’s plan to strike both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier to defeat Islamic State Sunni fighters, Kerry said Shi’ite Iran should have no role in talks on how to go about it.

This article was posted on the france24.com Internet site early this morning Europe time---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box just after midnight Denver time this morning.

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Robert Fisk on Isis campaign: Bingo! Here’s another force of evil to be ‘vanquished’

Resurrection, reinvention and linguistics. Barack Obama did the lot. And now he’s taking America to war in Syria as well as Iraq. Oh yes, and he’s going to defeat Isis, its “barbarism”, “genocide”, its “warped ideology” – until the bad guys are “vanquished from the earth”. What happened to George W. Bush?

But let’s go through this with a linguistic comb. First, Obama is going to resurrect the Sunni “Awakening Council” militias – a creature invented by a certain General David Petraeus – who were paid to fight al-Qaeda by the Americans during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but who then got blasted by al-Qaeda and betrayed by the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. Obama has even invented a new name for these militias: he called them “National Guard Units” who will “help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from Isil”. National Guard indeed!

Then there’s the reinvention of the “moderate” Syrian opposition which was once called the Free Syrian Army – a force of deserters corrupted and betrayed by both the West and its Islamic allies – and which no longer exists. This ghost army is now going to be called the “Syrian National Coalition” and be trained – of all places – in Saudi Arabia, whose citizens have given zillions of dollars to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Isis, Isil, IS (you decide on the acronym), Jabhat al-Nusra and sundry other bad guys whom Obama now wants to “vanquish from the earth”.

Fisk carves Obama a new one in this commentary that appeared on the independent.co.uk Internet site on Thursday---and it's another contribution from reader B.V.

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Global banks retreat as the U.S. and China tighten in lockstep

The world financial system is at an inflection point as the US and China both switch off monetary stimulus, a form of synchronized tightening by "G2" superpowers.

Bank of America has warned clients that the glory days of "maximum liquidity" we have enjoyed in the post-Lehman era are coming to an end, with sweeping implications for asset markets across the world.

The yield on 10-year US Treasuries - the benchmark price of global money - has already jumped 20 basis points to 2.54pc since mid-August as it becomes clear that the US economy has survived its Winter wobble and is moving into an incipient boom. Growth reached 4.2pc in the second quarter, with the ISM manufacturing gauge near 30-year peaks.

Bank of America expects yields to jump to 3.1pc this year, and 3.75pc by the end of 2015 as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in earnest.

This commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard showed up on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 8:19 p.m. BST on their Friday evening---and it's the final contribution of the day from Roy Stephens, for which I thank him.  [Note: This should be read in the context of what Doug Noland had to say in his Credit Bubble Bulletin posted further up in the Critical Reads section]

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Three King World News Blogs

1. Paul Craig Roberts: "World's Most Powerful Banks to Loot U.S."  2. Ronald-Peter Stoferle: "World to Enter Second Terrifying 2008-Style Global Meltdown"  3. John Mauldin: "This Great Danger May Trigger a Worldwide Crash

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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Hugo Salinas Price: Fiat money and independence for Scotland

Fiat currency is a cause of national separatism, currency wars, and social division between rich and poor, Hugo Salinas Price of the Mexican Civic Association for Silver writes this week in commentary headlined "Fiat Money and Independence for Scotland," posted at the association's Internet site, Plata.com

I found this commentary posted on the gata.org Internet site---and I hope the link works, as I always have problems getting this website to load up on my computer.  But I managed to get it to work this time---and it's certainly worth reading.

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Gold price reform to focus on improved transparency, governance controls

Instead of scrapping the century-old London Gold Fix altogether, gold industry role-players are calling for the modernisation of the method used to determine global gold price benchmarks, which is currently the subject of ‘intense’ debate, but not regarded as fundamentally broken.

This comes after increased scrutiny by European and U.S. regulators of gold and silver fixes, along with other commodity benchmarks, regarding the processes and methods used to set commodity prices.

Incidents include the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, case of widespread interest rate manipulation in 2012 and, more recently, Barclays, the group that controls South Africa’s Absa Bank, being fined £26-million by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority in May for failures in internal controls that enabled a gold options trader to manipulate the setting of gold prices.

Industry players note that an optimal gold fix reform will require strengthening through transparency and governance improvements, among other improvement options.

As you already know, dear reader, the London p.m. gold 'fix' is only part of the problem.  It's the negative bias in London trading [since January 1, 1975] that is the overlying concern.  Pile on top of that the criminal CME Group, aided and abetted by the CFTC---and the problems of the London fixes, gold or silver, fade into insignificance.  I thank South African reader B.V. for his final contribution to today's column---and if you decide to read this commentary that was posted on the miningweekly.com Internet site yesterday, I'd do it for entertainment purposes only.

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Koos Jansen: India's gold imports for June were highest in 12 months

Gold researcher and GATA consultant Koos Jansen reports that India's official gold imports for June were the highest in 12 months, which seems to contrast strangely with the Reuters report that India may be falling out of love with gold.

I found this story in a GATA release yesterday---and I thank Chris Powell for wordsmithing the above paragraph of introduction.  It's certainly worth your time.

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7 Times People Found Money in Bizarre Places

A pot of gold doesn't always sit at the end of a rainbow.

Instead, it can sit quietly in backyards, bathroom walls and even right beneath your feet. Some people set out to hunt for treasure, while others somehow manage to accidentally stumble onto valuable items.

We took a closer look at those who found fortunes unexpectedly, and discovered that many strange places have been home to some of the world's most expensive treasures.

This interesting compilation appeared on the mashable.com Internet site a couple of days ago---and I thank Elliot Simon for today's last story. 

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Sep 12, 2014

9/11 After 13 years --- Paul Craig Roberts

The tragedy of September 11, 2001, goes far beyond the deaths of those who died in the towers and the deaths of firefighters and first responders who succumbed to illnesses caused by inhalation of toxic dust. For thirteen years a new generation of Americans has been born into the 9/11 myth that has been used to create the American warfare/police state.

According to the official story, on September 11, 2001, the vaunted National Security State of the World’s Only Superpower was defeated by a few young Saudi Arabians armed only with box cutters. The American National Security State proved to be totally helpless and was dealt the greatest humiliation ever inflicted on any country claiming to be a power.

Osama bin Laden, a CIA asset dying of renal failure, was blamed despite his explicit denial. For the next ten years Osama bin Laden was the bogyman that provided the excuse for Washington to kill countless numbers of Muslims. Then suddenly on May 2, 2011, Obama claimed that U.S. Navy SEALs had killed bin Laden in Pakistan. Eyewitnesses on the scene contradicted the White House’s story. Osama bin Laden became the only human in history to survive renal failure for ten years. There was no dialysis machine in what was said to be bin Laden’s hideaway. The numerous obituaries of bin Laden’s death in December 2001 went down the memory hole. And the SEAL team died a few weeks later in a mysterious helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The thousands of sailors on the aircraft carrier from which bin Laden was said to have been dumped into the Indian Ocean wrote home that no such burial took place.

No surprises here for me.  Questions that nobody in the U.S. government will answer.  This commentary by Paul Craig Roberts appeared on this website on Wednesday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it to me yesterday.  It's a must read for sure.

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NYC Watches WTC Building #7 Come Down Again This 9/11/14

Times Square in New York City is now the site of the largest 9/11 TRUTH video presentation since 2001. It will host a 45-foot Building #7 video-billboard created by the Architects and Engineers for 9/11.

The billboard has been installed at the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in Times Square, Manhattan. This 9/11 TRUTH video-billboard has been quite strategically located within very close proximity to the New York Times Building.  In fact many Times employees will be able to view the video as they walk by it on their way to and from work.

What is particularly significant is that The New York Times has persisted in ignoring the facts surrounding the 9/11 event. The Grey Lady and national newspaper of record, as it is universally known, has all but refused to cover with any credibility the greatest terrorist attack in U.S. history; one that occurred in its own backyard!

The video shown below will repeat the following statements and the 15-second spot will air every two minutes for four straight weeks.

5:20 PM on 9/11, WTC7 came down in a classic controlled demolition. The government says fire brought it down, but anyone who watches the video can see otherwise.

This must read/watch article was posted on the stateofthenation2012.com Internet site yesterday---and it's the second offering in row from Roy Stephens.

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Deutsche Bank: The Bubble Must Go on to Sustain the "Current Global Financial System"

When all is said and done, it all basically boils down to this: from Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid.

"The bubble probably needs to continue in order to sustain the current global financial system and the necessary future deleveraging. However with yields moving ever lower in many parts of the world in recent times, partly due to weak growth, and with debt levels still moving higher, the chances are that most government bondholders are unlikely to achieve a positive real return over the medium to long-term from this starting point. Inflation or even the risk of sovereign restructuring will likely prevent this."

So there you have it: either the bubble goes on, or the "current global financial system" gets it.

What is left unsaid is that it is only the "1%" who benefits from the bubble. The wealth and income of everyone else gets progressively less, as even the Fed has been forced to admit, until there is nothing left. And should the bubble burst? Why the central banks will just reflate yet another bubble, which translated in lay man's terms means steal even more from the global middle class and give to the world's richest.

This short piece appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 4:22 p.m. EDT on Wednesday---and I found it in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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American credit-card debt hits a post-recession high

U.S. consumers may be relying too heavily on their plastic.

Americans added $28.2 billion to their credit cards in the second quarter of 2014, the largest amount in the last six years and nearly 200% more than in the second quarter of 2009, when the economy emerged from the depths of the Great Recession, according to new research from personal finance website CardHub.com. After paying off $32.5 billion owed during the first quarter of 2014, consumers ran up roughly 86% more debt during the following quarter.

The average household’s credit-card balance now stands at $6,802, up slightly from $6,628 in the first quarter, but still down from $8,431 at the end of 2008. By the end of the year, this figure is expected to exceed $7,000, reaching levels not seen since the end of 2010. U.S. consumers will be roughly $1,300 away from the credit card debt “tipping point,” where minimum payments become unsustainable and delinquencies skyrocket, the report says.

This news item appeared on the marketwatch.com Internet site at 3:32 p.m. EDT yesterday---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Foreclosure Activity Rises for Second Straight Month in August: RealtyTrac

U.S. foreclosure activity jumped in August for the second consecutive month as banks started the process on more properties and scheduled more housing auctions, industry firm RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Overall, 116,913 properties were at some stage of the foreclosure process, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, the group said.

That pushed overall activity up 7 percent from July, it said. From a year ago, foreclosure activity was down 9 percent.

Lenders started the foreclosure process on about 55,000 properties in August, up 12 percent from July, but unchanged from a year ago. It was the second consecutive month in which foreclosure starts were up month-over-month.

This article appeared on the moneynews.com Internet site at 10:23 a.m. EDT on Thursday---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sharing it with us.

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Marc Faber: McDonald’s tells us why the market will collapse

Marc Faber has long predicted that a collapse in U.S. stocks is coming. On Thursday he reiterated that call, saying there is fresh evidence that a bear market is ahead—courtesy of the Golden Arches.

On Tuesday, McDonald's reported that global same-store sales in August fell 3.7 percent in August, well short of expectations. The worst drop occurred in the Asia-Pacific region on the back of a Chinese meat safety scandal, but even U.S. sales slid 2.8 percent.

For Faber, those results are a perfect example of the damage being done by central banks—and the harbinger of more bad news to come.

This 11-minute CNBC interview with Mark appeared on their website yesterday sometime---and it starts at the 1:10 minute mark.  I thank reader Ken Hurt for finding it for us.

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How important is the financial sector to Scotland's economy?

Scotland has a long, rich history in the financial sector. Royal Bank of Scotland has been based there for nearly 300 years, while money manager Standard Life has had its headquarters in Scotland for 189 years.

But several Scottish-based financial institutions have now said they will relocate to England if Scottish voters back the break-up of the UK in next week's referendum on independence.

Uncertainty over the currency an independent Scotland would use, who would be the lender of last resort for Scottish banks and who would regulate them have led to concerns of "capital flight" - where deposits are moved out of the country.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond denied uncertainty in the markets was caused by the Scottish government's stance on a shared currency, and instead blamed "the unreasonable posture of the UK government who have refused to discuss this at any stage throughout the last two years".

This article showed up on the bbc.com Internet site at 11:24 a.m. BST on Thursday---and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for sending it our way.

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Only Germany is holding together as separatists threaten to rip Europe apart

Europe is disintegrating. Two large and ancient kingdoms are near the point of rupture as Spain follows Britain into constitutional crisis, joined like Siamese twins.

The post-Hapsburg order further east is suddenly prey to a corrosive notion that settled borders are up for grabs. "Problems frozen for decades are warming up again," said Giles Merritt, from Friends of Europe in Brussels.

The best we can hope for - should tribalism prevail - is German political hegemony in Europe. The German people so far remain a bastion of rationalism, holding together as others tear themselves apart. The French are too paralysed by economic depression and the collapse of the Hollande presidency to play any serious role.

The far worse outcome is that even Germany succumbs to centrifugal forces, leaving Europe bereft of coherent leadership, a parochial patchwork, wallowing in victimhood and decline, defenceless against a revanchist Russia that plays by different rules.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has the 'Chicken Little'/fear mongering alarm bells ringing before there's anything for them to ring about.  But the British establishment has their knickers in a twist over Scotland at the moment---and AE-P is only doing the bidding of his masters.  If you decide to read this, do so with a big grain of salt.  It was posted on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 9:10 p.m. BST on their Wednesday evening---and its another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Most of France Wants Early Resignation of President Hollande: Poll

Over 60 percent of French voters want President Francois Hollande to leave office before his term runs out in in 2017, according to a new poll conducted by Ifop for Le Figaro Magazine, the media outlet reported Thursday.

"According to Ifop, 62 percent of Frenchmen would like to see Francois Hollande leave the Elysee Palace [the official residence of the President of the French Republic] before the end of his mandate. This would be preferable to the dissolution of the National Assembly [the lower house of the Parliament] of France or the replacement of the country's prime-minister," Le Figaro said.

Earlier in September, Hollande announced that he will not step down before the end of his term.

This brief news item was posted on the RIA Novosti website at 3:16 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from South African reader B.V.

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Half of Europeans against U.S. Interference in European Policies: Survey

Half of Europeans are against US interference in their international policies, the 13th Transatlantic Trends survey by The German Marshall Fund reveals.

"Fifty percent of Europeans said they would prefer to see their country take a more independent approach from the United States, up 8 percentage points from last year," reads the statement published on the fund's website on Wednesday.

The survey, which also showed that the majority of Americans (53%) disapprove of President Barack Obama's international policies, had the most notable response registered in Germany, where 57 percent of the population expressed a strong preference for such an approach in security and diplomatic affairs that would as independent from the United States as possible.

This is another RIA Novosti story from yesterday---and it's the second offering in a row from reader B.V.

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German Business Calls Russia Key Partner Despite Sanctions

Despite the sanctions, Russia is still key partner for German businesses, Michael Harms, Chairman of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, said Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the paradigm of our cooperation has changed significantly. At the beginning of the year I was working on the framework of a new Germany- Russia Partnership for Modernization, and today we have to speak about the impact of sanctions. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that from the perspective of the German business, Russia remains its strategic economic partner," Harms noted at the news conference presenting the results of the poll on the impact of sanctions.

According to the survey conducted by the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce revealed Tuesday, most German companies operating in Russia believe that economic sanctions against Moscow are not proving effective. Almost 80 percent of the polled enterprises believe that economic sanctions are counterproductive and not conducive for political objectives. One third of the respondents agree that sanctions still need to be introduced. Two thirds, on the contrary, think that the sanctions are not necessary. The respondents said the sanctions will lead to further deterioration of the economic environment. Some 71 percent of enterprises expect economic slowdown by the end of the year.

This RIA Novosti article put in an appearance on their Internet site at 2:36 p.m Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon---and it's the third contribution in a row from reader B.V.

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Despite economic fears, the E.U. sanctions Russia again

The European Union on Thursday slapped more sanctions on Russia for helping separatists destabilize Ukraine, limiting Russia’s access to its financial market, hitting the country’s vital oil industry, curbing high-tech exports and targeting more officials with travel bans and asset freezes.

Many E.U. members had been loath to increase the sanctions against Russia for fear of jeopardizing their close trade relationships with Moscow. But a compromise struck in a video conference call with top EU leaders broke a deadlock that had paralyzed the 28-nation bloc from taking tougher action over the past ten days.

Under the compromise hashed out by leaders including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande, the sanctions could be reversed within weeks if the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine holds.

This AP story showed up on the washingtonpost.com Internet site at 1:51 p.m. EDT on Thursday afternoon---and it's the second offering of the day from Elliot Simon.  The BBC also had a story about this yesterday---and it was headlined "Ukraine crisis: New E.U. sanctions hit Russia on Friday".  It's courtesy of reader James Skinner.

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U.S. to sanction Sberbank, tighten limits on other Russian banks, sources tell Reuters

The United States will take new steps on Friday to limit the access of major Russian banks, including Sberbank, to U.S. debt and equity markets to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said.

The sanctions are timed to coincide with fresh European Union economic penalties, with both sets aimed at the Russian energy, financial and defense sectors.

They are the latest sanctions imposed by the United States and the E.U. following Russia's annexation of Crimea in March and what the West sees as an effort since to further destabilize Ukraine by backing pro-Russian separatists with troops and arms.

This Reuters article, filed from Washington, put in an appearance on their website at 4:29 p.m. EDT on Thursday---and I found it on the gata.org Internet site.

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Finance, energy and defense sectors: E.U. and U.S. set to impose new Russia sanctions

Barack Obama says he is joining the E.U. initiative to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia. Both Washington and Brussels say the sanctions will target finance, energy and defense sectors – yet can be revoked if the situation in Ukraine improves.

The U.S. is to provide details of their sanctions on Friday.

“We will deepen and broaden sanctions in Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors. These measures will increase Russia’s political isolation as well as the economic costs to Russia, especially in areas of importance to President [Vladimir] Putin and those close to him,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement on Thursday.

The U.S. says that Russia has sent heavily armed forces to Ukraine. Obama added that the U.S. may withdraw sanctions if Russia fulfills obligations under the Minsk agreement.

This news item showed up on the Russia Today website at 1:19 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon, which was 5:19 a.m. EDT.  It's another contribution to today's column from Roy Stephens.

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Moscow Views New E.U. Sanctions as Illegitimate: Kremlin

Moscow regrets E.U. decision to impose new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and views them as illegitimate, the Kremlin spokesman said Thursday.

“We regret the decision by E.U. countries to introduce a new round of sanctions [against Russia],” Dmitry Peskov told reporters in the capital of Tajikistan.

“We have said on numerous occasions that we do not understand and reject the idea of sanctions imposed earlier, while considering them as illegitimate,” Peskov said.

The spokesman added that the new sanctions did not make sense in view of efforts made recently by Russia to stop the bloodshed and to assist in a peaceful resolution of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Well, dear reader, if you haven't figured out by now that the U.S. and NATO don't want to resolve this issue peacefully, then you should give up reading these types of stories.  This one appeared on the RIA Novosti website at 10:33 p.m. Moscow time yesterday evening.  I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Russia’s New Package of Retaliatory Measures to Western Sanctions Ready: Kremlin

Moscow has prepared a new package of retaliatory measures to Western sanctions, that include restrictions on imports of cars and textile products, but hopes that common sense will prevail, a senior Kremlin official told RIA Novosti Thursday.

"There is a whole range of non-agricultural products that make our, first of all European, partners dependent on us," he said. "For example, imports of cars, primarily second-hand cars, as well as certain types of textile products that we are quite capable of producing on our own. Not all of them, but certain kinds," presidential aide Andrei Belousov told RIA Novosti on the sidelines of the Samara economic forum.

Moscow has already imposed a year-long ban on the import of meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables, as well as milk products from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway as a response to Western sanctions.

This story appeared on the RIA Novosti Internet site at 4:33 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon---and my thanks go out to reader B.V. once again.

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The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria: New York Times Editorial Board

By the time President Obama announced the authorization of airstrikes in Syria Wednesday night, he clearly felt that he had little choice militarily or politically. For three years he resisted American military involvement in Syria, where the Assad government and rebel forces are engaged in a bloody civil war.

But with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — the vicious Sunni extremist group also known as ISIS and ISIL, which has seized territory in Iraq and Syria and beheaded two Americans — Mr. Obama explained that he had to expand the fight into a perilous new horizon. “ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities,” he said. “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.”

In broadening the operation beyond airstrikes in Iraq, Mr. Obama says the aim now is to retake ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and to degrade and ultimately destroy it wherever it operates, including in its strongholds in Syria. But even if discrete military goals are achieved in the short term, the expansion of the American role in that regional conflict carries substantial and unpredictable risks that Americans may not be willing to bear.

That’s why this open-ended operation, which Mr. Obama says will take time, demands congressional approval, despite his claim of authority to expand the campaign in Iraq and take the fight to Syria under the Iraq war resolution and the War Powers Resolution.

This editorial appeared on The New York Times website late in the evening on Wednesday---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.  It's worth reading.

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Struggling to Gauge ISIS Threat, Even as U.S. Prepares to Act

The violent ambitions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been condemned across the world: in Europe and the Middle East, by Sunni nations and Shiite ones, and by sworn enemies like Israel and Iran. Pope Francis joined the call for ISIS to be stopped.

But as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.

Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counter-terrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a “farce,” with “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems — all on the basis of no corroborated information,” said Mr. Benjamin, who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College.

This news item, filed from Washington, was also from The New York Times website on Wednesday---and it's worth reading as well.

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Russia warns U.S. against strikes on Islamic State in Syria

Russia has warned that U.S. air strikes against militants in Syria would be a "gross violation" of international law.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said any such action, without the backing of the UN, would be "an act of aggression".

It comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia to try to build a coalition against Islamic State (IS) militants.

President Obama has threatened action against IS in Syria as well as Iraq.

Good points, of course, but the U.S. government and military are now beyond any law---domestic or foreign.  This article appeared on the bbc.com Internet site at 11:36 EDT on Thursday---and it's courtesy of reader B.V.

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Turkey Refuses to Take Part in U.S.-led Attacks in Iraq, Syria: Reports

Turkey will not allow a U.S.-led coalition to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria from its air bases and will not take part in combat operations against militant groups, a government official told Agence France Presse Thursday.

"Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The announcement comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding talks in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to encourage Middle Eastern countries to create an international coalition to fight terrorism, particularly the Islamic State (IS) group.

This is another story from the RIA Novosti website that was posted there late yesterday afternoon Moscow time---and it's also courtesy of reader B.V.

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Iran Doubts Emerging Coalition Members Ready to Fight IS Militants

Tehran expressed doubts that the members of an emerging international coalition truly intend to fight radical Islamists in Syria and Iraq, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Thursday, citing Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham.

“There are serious ambiguities in the real intention of an emerging so-called international coalition against the terrorist group of Daesh (also known as ISIS),” Afkham was quoted as saying by the agency.

She added that certain coalition members provided financial and technical support to the terrorists in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, other members proved unable to carry the responsibility put on them by the international community when it came to Iraq and Syria.

Once again reader B.V. has sent us a story from the RIA Novosti website that was posted there at 5:53 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon.  There was also a story about all this in The Guardian yesterday evening BST as well.  It's headlined "Assad, Moscow and Tehran condemn Obama's plan for air strikes against ISIS"---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens---and it's final contribution of the day, for which I thank him.

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China, Russia reported to build huge seaport in North Asia

China and Russia are to build one of the largest ports in northeast Asia on Russia's Sea of Japan coast, Chinese media reports. It is the latest step by Beijing and Moscow to bring their economies closer, and diversify from Western influence.

The new seaport will be located in Russia’s Far East, just 18 kilometers away from the Chinese border and will be capable to handle up to 60 million tons of cargo a year, China's state-run People's Daily Online reported.

The deal between the two countries was signed at May's Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai, the report said.

This Russia Today article showed up on their website at 10:53 a.m. Moscow time on their Thursday morning---and it's the final offering of the day from South African reader B.V.

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Three King World News Blogs

1. Art Cashin: Remembering the Horror, Atrocity, and Heroes of 9/11  2. Keith Barron: "Swiss Gold Initiative---and the PPT Losing Control of the Gold Market"  3. Egon von Greyerz: "This Terrifying Black Swan to Collapse Global Financial System"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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India's Love Affair with Gold May Be Over as Prices Slide

Kiran Laxman Salunkhe used to buy jewellery during religious festivals, but sliding gold prices have led the young Indian farmer to break with his family's traditional investment.

This year Salunkhe has deposited his hard-earned savings at the bank for the first time in a decade and bought farmland.

"I bought jewellery when gold price was 32,000 rupees (per 10 grams) last year. Now jewellers won't pay me more than 27,000 rupees if I want to sell. Why should I invest in gold," said Salunkhe, who farms 15 acres of sugar cane in Vangal, a village 250 km (160 miles) south of Mumbai.

"Nowadays it is risky to keep jewellery. Burglaries are rising," he said. "With a fixed deposit there is no risk."

This longish Reuters story, filed from Vangal, India, certainly has a strong anti-gold slant---and it was posted on their website at 8:17 p.m. EDT on Thursday evening---and I found it embedded in a GATA release.  I doubt very much that this story is representative of the entire nation, but it's worth skimming nonetheless.

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China Holds “Gold Congress” - Positioning Itself as Global Gold Hub, “In China, Gold is Money”

The China Gold Congress is currently in full flight in Beijing. The three day Congress is China’s biggest gold industry event of the year, drawing in participants from across the Chinese and international gold sectors including central banks, mining companies, bullion banks and refiners.

The event, co-sponsored by the World Gold Council (WGC) and the China Gold Association, showcases China’s gold industry and acts as a focus point for what is now the world’s largest gold market in terms of demand and product innovation.

Discussions and forums during the event cover everything from reserve asset management for the official or central banking sector, through to investment products and mining supply. One of the key themes this year is the internationalisation of the gold market.

China’s gold market accounts for one third of global demand, and according to the WGC, is expected to grow another 20% cumulatively from now until the end of 2017.

This excellent commentary by Mark O'Byrne showed up on the goldcore.com Internet site yesterday---and in my opinion is a must read.  I borrowed the headline from the Zero Hedge piece on this.

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CME to launch Asia gold contract as race for pricing power heats up

CME Group Inc said it will launch a physically deliverable gold futures contract in Hong Kong later this year, joining a race in Asia to provide a viable price benchmark in the biggest gold-consuming region.

The planned launch of CME's 1 kg gold contract comes as China and Singapore are also preparing to launch physical bullion contracts with an eye on gaining pricing power of the metal at a time when the global benchmark is under scrutiny.

The moves underscore rising pressure from Asia, home to the top two gold consumers - China and India - to have pricing references that better reflect the region's market dynamics, and the growing disenchantment with prices set in the West.

The century-old London fix, the global benchmark for spot gold that is determined by a group of four banks over a teleconference, is being investigated by European and U.S. regulators under suspicion that it may have been manipulated.

If the CME Group is involved, you just know its going to be crooked.  This Reuters article, filed from Beijing, appeared on their Internet site at 10:32 a.m. IST on their Friday morning---and it's a gold-related news story I found on the Sharps Pixley website in the wee hours of this morning.

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China gold group, WGC ink co-operative agreement

The World Gold Council (WGC), the London headquartered market development organisation for the gold industry, and the China Gold Association have signed a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation Agreement’, at the official launch of the China Gold Congress & Expo 2014 in Beijing.

The aim of the agreement is stated to be to enhance the global understanding of the gold market and supply chain and China’s role within it through the exchange of research, data insights and developing innovations for gold in investment, technology and jewellery.

One hopes that this may give WGC researchers perhaps a better understanding of the Chinese gold supply and demand situation than seems to be the case at present where known import figures, stated gold demand figures and published data out of the Shanghai Gold Exchange seem to suggest a wide disparity in apparent demand in particular. However given the China Gold Association’s ties with the Chinese government, as will have any Chinese trade organisation, which may have an agenda to only let Western organisations, like the WGC, know what it wants them to know, then the co-operation agreement might not actually provide a great deal of new information on these disparities, although any such regular contact should be helpful.

It is also highly unlikely to throw any new light on whether the Chinese Central Bank is surreptitiously increasing its gold reserves without reporting them to the IMF - as many Western analysts believe - or not. We will almost certainly have to wait until the Chinese government deems it politic to announce any reserve upgrade, if any, before we know for sure.

This commentary by Lawrie appeared on the mineweb.com Internet site on Thursday sometime---and it's definitely worth reading.

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Gold engagement ring from 17th Century discovered lying in field by pensioner

A gold engagement ring from the 17th Century has been unearthed by a pensioner with a metal detector - more than 300 years after it was lost. 

Tom Ross, 69, was sweeping his metal detector over a ploughed farmer's field near Newtownabbey in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, when he stumbled across the item.

The rare 'posy' ring, which dates back to the late 1600s and is 85 per cent gold, bears the Old English inscription 'I noght on gift bot gifer', or 'Look not on the gift, but the giver'. Also known as a 'betrothal' ring, it pre-dates the custom of proposing with an engagement ring, but essentially served the same purpose.

Men and women exchanged the items from the 1500s onwards to symbolise their future commitment to each other.

This interesting news item put in an appearance on the dailymail.co.uk Internet site on Wednesday---and I found it on the gata.org Internet site yesterday.

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